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4 out of 5

by Tim

Sam Fisher is back in Splinter Cell: Conviction - the follow-up to Splinter Cell: Double Agent, which was one of my favorite Xbox 360 games to date.  Did it live up to its predecessor?      

The story is this: A few years have gone by for our protagonist, Sam Fisher, since the conclusion of Splinter Cell: Double Agent.  In Double Agent Sam takes on a mission that is filled with questionable actions and consequences – all while in the shadow of the inexplicable and un-mourned death of his daughter.  We catch up to Sam a few years after these events.  Without giving too much of the story away, this is a very compelling and heartwarming storyline that is often seen in cinema and not video games.      

The beginning of the game shows a flashback of Sam and his daughter when she was younger.  This scene was absolutely brilliant.  You know how in most games these days the very beginning stage is often the tutorial stage in which you usually have a narrator telling you how to maneuver your character?  Well, not so for Splinter Cell: Conviction.  This scene is a very short and effective cut-scene that demonstrates the usage of shadows and light – you learn by Sam speaking with his daughter about hiding in shadows.  It’s a short glimpse into how the mechanics of the game plays out, a brilliant move by the creators of the game.  This definitely set the tone for the rest of the game for me.    

This installment, to an already wonderful franchise, features a few new elements that I hope remain in future games: “Last Known Position”, a feature that when you get spotted a white [almost ghost-like] outline of Sam remains in the location where you were last spotted, which allows you to flank them from behind or sneak past them from another direction.  “Mark and Execute” is a feature very much like in Red Dead Redemption – it allows Sam to mark a certain amount of enemies [the amount depends on which gun you are using] – you can mark enemies prior to entering a room that you would like to shoot or execute first.  This was a nice addition, but it sometimes makes the game too easy – I ended up only using it in the first couple stages of the game because of this.  Another great addition was the shadow effect that would change the color of your screen depending on what type of light you were in.  For instance, if you were in a well lit location the screen would be in color, but if you were in a shadow the screen would be black and white.  Now, this is a very cool feature that I highly enjoyed, but there were some cases where you couldn’t tell if you were hidden or not because it looked black and white, but in reality you were just in a bland or low-lit room… but completely visible to all enemies.  The main new feature that I fell in love with was the way the story developed by playing a projected image, text or video on the wall; for those of you who haven’t played the game yet I’ll paint a picture for you.  During many scenes in the game, there were times where an important plotline or story development would be shown by a projector on the wall… now, this wasn’t actually there for the characters to see, it was only for the player.  It was also used as a direction tool; text would appear on certain locations giving you your next objective; very similar to what you see in the movie “Zombieland” and the rules the character had displayed on the screen during the movie.  This way of adding story and direction in the game was brilliant and highly effective… it never took you out of the game to show you a cut-scene or to give you your next objective.    

On the negative side - there honestly isn’t a lot to pick out as negative.  Sam Fisher has a new younger look that I approve of, the art direction they chose for the game is a step up, the story wasn’t as strong as the previous title, but still compelling enough to keep me glued to my TV and Xbox 360 controller.  I think the only negative remark I can make about this game is the stealth feature, or lack of stealth.  Splinter Cell games rely heavily on stealth, if Sam was ever caught he would have no way out because his weapon skills were lacking in that department.  In Splinter Cell: Conviction the stealth feature takes a backseat, Sam Fisher can now choose between staying in the shadows or pulling out his gun.  Now, I do like the fact that he’s not a complete idiot when it comes to shooting a gun, he can usually hold his own in this game.  But, the fact that a lot of the scenes that appear later in the game take out the stealth experience altogether is a big negative.  In fact, in the last level you’re in the White House and nearly every room has bulletproof light bulbs that cannot be shot out… which means the last level has minimal to no stealth elements.  One reason why I love Splinter Cell games so much is the waiting, the sneaking, and the brains required to play a great stealth game.  This game dumbed down the stealth element to turn Splinter Cell into an action/adventure game that features some cool stealth moments.  In fact, now when you shoot a guard you cannot move it so another guard won’t see it… the body is now left there for everyone to see.  But honestly, other than that… this is an amazing game that I was surprised to like as much as I did.  I was just like everyone else out there [who liked the previous installments because of the stealth feature] – I didn’t think I’d like it as much because I heard they took out a lot of the elements that made it a Splinter Cell game.  But after playing it, I can honestly say this is my second favorite Splinter Cell game in the franchise.  And it deserves a spot next to Splinter Cell: Double Agent on my video game shelf.  I hope they don’t change much for the next game!